not a book, streaming

Not a Book: Keep Sweet

I only got two thirds of the way through the first episode of Keep Sweet the first time I tried to watch it – despite thinking I was prepared for how grim that would be given that I’ve read Under The Banner of Heaven and Educated and listened to the whole series of Unfinished: Short Creek. It took nearly nine months for me to come back to it – because if there’s one thing that the second half of 2022 and the start of 2023 has been for me it is a test of my resilience. But I did come back to it, and now I have some thoughts to share.

So Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey is a documentary series about the Fundamentalist Mormon Church, focusing on the rise (and fall) of their leader Warren Jeffs. Now given that I’ve already mentioned several other things based around this group, it may seem odd to describe them as secretive. But they are – and the only reason we know what we do is because of people who have started to speak out after leaving the religion and the court records around the trial of Warren Jeffs.

The FLDS are a polygamist group and there is a lot more to unpack about them than you can fit in one four part documentary series. If you already know a bit about them, you’ll notice that there are some bits missing from this, or that the reality isn’t quite as neat as the documentary makes it seem. But I liked that uses the women who were affected to tell the story and explain what it was like to grow up in a cult, why they believed what they did and how they escaped or broke free. As I mentioned at the start of the post, the first episode is quite grim, but if you can cope with that, it gets easier – or at least you know what you’re dealing with. If you are interested in religion in America, cults or the like, this is probably going to be at least slightly of interest to you if you haven’t already watched it.

That first weekend I started watching it was actually the weekend that it was released, so you you might now have to search for it on Netflix because as we know the algorithm prioritises the new. And there is always something new on Netflix – the latest being a documentary about the Waco Siege, which I will probably also watch at some point.

And before I go – if this is of interest to you as well as the posts I referenced at the top about Educated and Short Creek, I’ve also written about Murder Among the Mormons, The Eyes of Tammy Faye and slightly tangentially Bad Bets and The Cult of We.

Have a great Sunday everyone.

not a book, streaming, tv

Not a Book: Our Flag Means Death

It’s Sunday again and time for me to talk about something that isn’t a book again, and today it’s Our Flag Means Death – which is a comedy series about pirates very loosely based on a real life pirate.

It’s the early Eighteenth Century, and Stede Bonnet is tired of his comfortable life as a husband and father on Barbados and buys a ship and runs off to be a pirate. Except that he’s a really, really bad pirate. Like terrible. He has no aptitude for killing and his ship is outfitted for luxury rather than anything else. When we meet him at the beginning of the series, his crew are so fed up of him that they’re considering mutiny, but decide that he’ll manage to get himself killed soon enough. Except he doesn’t and soon he and his crew come across the notorious pirate Blackbeard, and they make a deal – Blackbeard will help Stede become a better pirate and Stede will teach Blackbeard how to become an aristocrat. Except it’s not as simple as that. Oh and it’s a romantic comedy.

If you’re struggling to get your head around all this, and I’ll admit I’m not doing a very good job of explaining it (luckily the first series came out in the US a year ago, so I’m hoping some of you will already have watched this and have thoughts to share), but you’ve probably spotted Taika Waititi in the trailer, and he’s also an executive producer. So the easy way to describe this is to say think of the same sort of humour as What We Do in the Shadows, but with pirates in the 1700s (and not a mockumentary). The episodes are only 25 minutes long, they’re very easy to binge and if it works for you (and it really works for me!) it will leave you with a big smile on your face.

If you’re in the UK, the first series is available on the BBC iPlayer to watch now. If you’re elsewhere in the world, you’ll need to look for it on a streaming service – probably whatever HBO Max is called in your territory. Series two has finished filming but there’s no news yet on a release date for it.

Have a great Sunday everyone.